When a pregnant person finally reaches the last months of pregnancy and birth is imminent, so many emotions can rush to the forefront.
Fear, anxiety and dread to name a few. Especially with a first baby, labour can seem like an insurmountable and terrifying task. One of my thoughts in my last month was, “Well, there’s no way to turn back and no other way out of this!”
So, how can the mind and body be prepared for something that is inevitable yet seems impossible?
Perspective is everything when approaching this sacred and selfless act.
At first glance, childbirth can seem like a violent apex to the process of pregnancy. However, the fury of nature itself can be perceived as violent at first glance too, and yet nature and childbirth are the very seat of life.
“Why does it have to be so painful?”
When I approached birth, I found myself asking, why does it have to be so painful? But then I remembered that pain has been used by countless cultures as a tool to reach altered states of consciousness. What if I used my birth experience as a tool to shift paradigms and heal my body, mind and soul?
Indeed, what I found is that as my body literally opened, as it shifted and blossomed – not just a baby was born but a parent was born too. I realized that it is one of the most powerful acts that my human body could make.
13 Ways to Prepare Your Body and Mind for Childbirth:
Incorporate regular acupuncture treatments into your pre-birth routine to help prepare for childbirth or to help with any issues or discomfort that might be arising as you approach labour.
Pre-birth acupuncture helps to prepare the cervix and the pelvis for labour and can also address any underlying issues such as heartburn, rib, back or pelvic pain, insomnia, breech presentation and stress.
Acupuncture also stimulates endorphins to release, which can help bring a sense of ease to the last few weeks of pregnancy.
2. Therapeutic Touch
Have lots of cuddles and tender touch from your partner and go for a prenatal massage. Touch increases oxytocin and endorphins, which can help increase the body’s threshold for pain and discomfort.
These neurotransmitters can help encourage a person to follow their instincts and is the body’s natural mechanism that helps to protect the mind from the intensity of labour.
3. Birth Stories
Reach out to the people in your life and ask them to share their birth stories.
Take in helpful birth stories and feel free to filter out any stories that are overwhelming for you to hear. Keep in mind that some people have difficult or even traumatic birth stories, and know that it is ok to kindly ask them to save those stories for another time if you are uncomfortable hearing them.
Hearing birth stories can help open your mind and perspective to what is possible. It is helpful to engage with the people in your community to feel a sense of support.
4. Prenatal Class
Take a prenatal class so that you know what to expect from the stages of labour. Adopt some coping mechanisms that resonate with you and practice them in the weeks leading up to birth. It can also be helpful to have a mindfulness practice at this time.
Have a visit with a registered psychologist who specializes in birth preparation to work with any unresolved fears. This can make a huge difference and can help to unwind any social conditioning or deconstruct any preconceived notions you may have about childbirth (for example that labour has to be as traumatic as we see in the movies).
6. Diet & Nutrition
Try to be mindful of your meals as you get closer to labour. No-one wants to go into labour with nothing but a big bag of salt and vinegar chips in their belly!
Also consider avoiding pungent, spicy and greasy foods in the last few weeks of pregnancy. In Chinese Medicine, we recognize that there can often be issues with excessive mucus production during the end of pregnancy. So staying away from ‘damp forming’ foods can help. For example, avoid dairy products, rich meats, bananas and concentrated juices.
Get as much rest as possible while engaging in gentle physical activity such as walking, TaiChi or prenatal yoga. Make sure to rest to avoid becoming exhausted. Take lots of naps and take lots of moments just to rest. You don’t want to be tired going into labour!
8. Pelvic Floor Care
Visit a pelvic floor physiotherapist to get in touch with your pelvic floor and cultivate a relationship with these crucial muscles.
Surround yourself with beauty. Create a pleasant little bubble for yourself and make sure to take extra care in pampering yourself.
Surround yourself with flowers, wear jewelry, or do whatever helps you to feel beautiful. You are a beautiful and powerful person who is about to cross the threshold into parenthood.
Prepare yourself to dine with divinity and become a birth warrior! Spend time in nature. Let go of your inhibitions and feel yourself go with the flow. Take in the beauty that is all around you. Allow yourself to be moved by the expressions of life on this incredible planet.
10. Set An Intention
Take some time to set an intention for your birth. While your body is open and in the thralls of birthing, it is possible to heal and cultivate a new constitution. Birth can often somehow heal lifelong issues such as dysmenorrhea (period cramps) and vulvodynia (vaginal pain)!
Keep in mind that an intention does not mean having an attachment to any particular outcome, but rather an open-ended idea. For example, it could simply be to heal and cultivate self love.
This intention for healing is something that you can hold onto throughout the process. Entering birth as a ceremony and a rite of passage can bring so much meaning to this experience.
Try visualizing placing your intention into a stone that resonates with you. Then carry that stone into your birth as a focal point and reminder throughout the birthing process.
11. Invite Patience
Remember that babies have their own timeline.
Unless you are being induced or have a planned Cesarian birth, when past your estimated ‘due date’ (it’s really more of a guess date!), try to practice patience. Remember that when ready, the baby will send the signal that begins the cascade of hormones that will precipitate labour.
Spend any extra time cultivating trust for your body, your baby and your outcome. You and your baby are going to go through such a journey to be with one another. It can be a lovely practice to talk to your baby and communicate your intention. I remember saying to my baby, “Let’s be gentle with each other!”
12. Feel The Support Of Those Before You
Know that you are backed and held by the love of all of the mothers and parents who came before you. You wouldn’t exist without the love of every parent in your lineage. Everyone arrives on this planet through birth.
I love the description that in your most primal moment, your body becomes a Stargate – a portal between the ‘other side’ and this planet. Knowing that all of the mothers and grandmothers and parents and grandparents before you have brought you to this sacred moment.
13. Other Resources
Some of my favourite resources for preparing for birth are:
Some Final Words
While we have made tremendous and miraculous strides towards helping people and babies survive this primal act, often a birthing person can be perceived as a condition that needs to be fixed. However, it is important to remember that birth is a natural physiological process – to be supported and nurtured, not to be fixed.
Having someone with you, such as your partner or a doula, who can advocate for you during birth can be very helpful.
Depending on which turn birth takes, decisions can be thrust upon you very quickly. It is helpful to have a birth team that you trust and a clear birth plan that can also go with the flow with the situation presented. Once this is all sorted out, you can relax into your last moments before baby arrives and take it one day at a time.
Good luck and stay tuned for a future blog post on my own birth story experience!
Contact us if you would like to find out how the experienced practitioners at Whole Family Health can be a part of your pre-birth, birth and postpartum team.
photo: IG @katie_duarte